'It is a criminal act' - Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Boris Johnson and other key figures react to European Super League coined by Leeds United's rivals
Gary Neville claimed clubs should be relegated, Jamie Carragher called Liverpool an “embarrassment” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded answers as plans for a new European Super League came to light.
Reports emerged on Sunday that the Premier League’s so-called ‘big six’ of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham intended to join a rebel competition.
Those plans were confirmed that evening, with AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid joining as founding clubs with three more clubs expected to follow before the inaugural season.
The backlash has been both fierce and prompt, with Liverpool great Carragher taking aim at his former club on Twitter after they confirmed their plans.
“What an embarrassment we’ve become @LFC,” he said. “Think of all the people who have come before us at this club who would be equally embarrassed as well. #SuperLeague.”
Former Arsenal and City defender Bacary Sagna said: “Oooook .. I think I will stop watching football..cause the football I know is not football anymore.”
Ex-City player Micah Richards said the idea was “an absolute disgrace” earlier in the day and former United captain Roy Keane said the move “comes down to money, greed”.
Neville said he was appalled by the developments, which he feels are motivated by greed.
“I am a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years but I am disgusted, absolutely disgusted,” the former England and United defender told Sky Sports.
“It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club.
“The motivation is greed. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this.
“It is criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country. Deduct points, deduct money and punish them.
“Enough is enough. There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements. This is disowning-your-own-club stuff, this.
“Let them break away but punish them straight away. If they announce a letter of intent has been signed, those six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them.
“Give the title to Burnley, let Fulham stay up. Relegate Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal. Those three clubs, with their history in this country, are the ones that should suffer the most.
“The history and traditions that run through those three clubs is absolutely enormous and I value it, but they leave a lot to be desired at this moment in time.”
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani responded on social media, by tweeting :"Well said Gary."
Neville also feels the timing is crass, coming amid a pandemic and just ahead of an anticipated announcement from European governing body UEFA on Monday detailing changes to the format of the Champions League.
He said: “Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, football clubs at National League level going bust, furloughing players, clubs on the edge in League One and Two, and this lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.
“I’d like to think Manchester United and Liverpool would stand there in the face of this and say something is not right here.
“Let’s collaborate with the game to try to get a better competition, a better Champions League. I’m not against the modernisation of competitions but this is a grab.
“The timing is hideous. What world are these people living in to think they can bring this forward at this moment in time?”
As the news officially broke overnight, a clearly irate Neville replied to Liverpool’s statement with a quote from their great former manager, Bill Shankly.
It read: “The socialism I believe in isn’t really politics. It is a way of living. I believe the only way to live and be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and it’s the way I see life.”
The news has led to responses from politicians as well as those within football, including Prime Minister Johnson.
“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,” he wrote on Twitter before Sunday evening’s confirmation.
“They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.
“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also commented on the matter, saying any decisions should involve fans.
“Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing,” he said in a statement.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
“We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”
Damian Collins MP, the former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee said: “The idea of creating a closed franchise league of elite football clubs must be stopped.
“This is a self-serving proposal by a small number of clubs seeking to maximise their revenues from the global audience of football, and to the detriment of everyone else.”
Former Football Association and Manchester City chairman David Bernstein said he is “really ashamed” of the six Premier League clubs who have agreed to join a European Super League.
Bernstein told Radio Four: “I’m ashamed. I’ve supported Manchester City all my life. It’s a club I love. But I’m really ashamed, as I know Gary Neville has said he is about his old club Manchester United, and I think Jamie Carragher and Liverpool.
“I’m ashamed as clubs with that history should have great responsibility to the rest of the game.”
The Labour Party’s Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, which is home to two of the Super League founder clubs in Manchester United and Manchester City, tweeted: “That phrase ‘the game’s gone’ always used to annoy me.
“But with VAR and now this, nothing else better sums up where we are. It’s the phrase of the day. #TheGamesGone”